Ask Matt: 'The Good Place' Finale, 'Face Off,' 'Pure Genius' Diagnosis, and More
Leaving Us in a Good Place
Question: What did you think of last week’s The Good Place finale on NBC? It’s been a long time since network TV has come up with a twist that A) wasn't spoiled and B) didn't come out of left field just to grab ratings. The Good Place managed to avoid both of those and answered my season-long question of "How do they make this concept into more than one season?" Well done. - Jason
Question: Thank you for recommending The Good Place. I usually don't watch that type of show, but I enjoy Kristin Bell and with your "thumbs up," I decided to give it a try. And it certainly didn't disappoint! I am still thinking about the final two episodes four days later. What a great twist! Is it renewed? And will future seasons also be shorter than the usual network TV show season? Thanks again for steering me to watch this clever show. - Beth
Matt Roush: I’m just as delighted as its fans that The Good Place more than lived up to its early promise, and then raised the bar with its What-The-Fork game-changing ending. Here’s what another fan, Jake, had to say about it (without giving too much away): “It makes me want to binge the whole season all over again, to experience it with the knowledge of the twist. It's risky to blow apart the premise of the show in such a way, and yet it felt organic, exciting and a natural extension of the show as we have known it, as opposed to something like the lamentable Life on Mars finale, which betrayed the spirit of everything before it. (Who else remembers that one?)”
Matt again: I admit, I’ve blocked the memory of that one. As for the chances for The Good Place being renewed: I’d be reasonably confident. It’s not like NBC is swimming in comedy hits, critical or otherwise. The Good Place was designed as a high-concept, high-quality reminder of NBC’s history of sophisticated Thursday night comedy. The reviews were strong, and even though it wasn’t what you’d call a breakout hit—few shows are these days—I can’t imagine NBC wouldn’t bring it back for at least one more season, given the way the story evolved. I’d also like to see creator Mike Schur and company keep the show at 13 episodes a season, which I trust will be the case. It was a tight, surprising season with no padding, and in this case, the less-is-more rule paid off beautifully.
Is Syfy Doing an About Face?
Question: My question is about Face Off, in my opinion one of the best competition reality shows. It stays focused on the craftsmanship and seldom, if ever, devolves into pettiness. The contestants are, for the most part, quite likable, and you rarely get the sense that conflict and drama are rewarded. In fact, the contestants who do pose personal conflicts tend to get eliminated early, which creates a slowly building sense of camaraderie and good sportsmanship that is a rare reality-TV treat. That, combined with some stunning make-ups, three quirky but astute judges, the genuinely empathetic MacKenzie Westmore and her lovable pop Michael, makes it a high priority DVR entry. So imagine how happy I was when I saw that a new episode is scheduled to record this week! I'm wondering though, why the seemingly long delay?
Am I mistaken or has SyFy run two seasons a year, summer and winter, until this year? I definitely missed having it this past summer. Guess I'm really asking: How's the show doing? Have you heard anything about the upcoming all-star season? I've always thought it did pretty well for SyFy, and I think that, creatively, it's actually grown the last few years. Having the finalists on an actual movie set putting their designs to work has been great. Has Syfy scaled back its love for the show? Because I sure haven't. — Aaron
Matt Roush: Like you, I’m a big fan of this show, and I’ve long been under the impression (from the mouths of current and past Syfy executives) that Face Off is one of the network’s better performers, and the new All Stars season is off to a great start this week. If anything, it’s even more collegial this year, with past players willingly competing in teams of two and always willing to help a brother or sister out when molds get stuck, etc. Your observation is correct that Face Off sat out the usual summer-fall season in 2016, with only the 10th season airing January to April. I can’t say why Syfy didn’t air two cycles during 2016, but that 10-year milestone may have something to do with it, and also the fact that Syfy and its sister channel USA have been going through a rebranding phase. To be honest, even though I truly enjoy Face Off, I worried it would burn itself out because it seemed like it was almost never off the air. (This happened with my other favorite competition series, Bravo’s Top Chef, which I had to give a rest for a while, but have happily returned for the last two seasons.) A similar situation is happening with CBS’s long-running The Amazing Race, which will only air once during this season, not starting until April 21. I don’t believe CBS is giving up on the show, but by only airing it once instead of twice a year, it might actually make the show feel more special upon its return. It feels that way with Face Off, and not just because we’re welcoming back some fan favorites.
The Next Alphas
Question: I know I'm way too late in asking this, but will we see another series like Alphas, which sprouted up in the wake of Heroes’ success? Since its cancellation, I really enjoy watching the last 12 episodes (from 2012) on Netflix. All the cast members have left to do other things. I guess my question is if the flame is out now on these types of shows? — RW
Matt Roush: Let me steer you toward the Marvel universe, where offbeat characters with special powers are almost a dime a dozen. Netflix has steadily been building its team of Defenders—the last of the group, Iron Fist, will premiere in March. And on a similar note, I’ll take this opportunity to tout the second season of Syfy’s The Magicians, starting this Wednesday, which also features an engaging cast of young heroes still figuring out their gifts within a magical and dangerous world. This show intrigues me in a way the more generic Alphas never did.
Diagnosis: Anger Over Genius Demise
Question: I am extremely upset that Pure Genius, one of the better shows this season, is getting axed and Kevin James's slapstick show isn't. Pure Genius combines medical and technical possibilities and thinking outside the box. What they present on the show isn't like science fiction but something that could be possible in future medicine. The cast is amazing. CBS is making a BIG mistake. — Carol
Question: Why does CBS put a new show like Pure Genius on at 10/9c on a Thursday night in a time slot with already established shows, then do nothing to save it when it flounders? It's a good show, which needed to be found by viewers, but CBS didn't bother to do anything to help it. It's frustrating and infuriating when some of us give a new show a chance, and then are let down by the network which apparently doesn't care as much about the show as we do. Grrrrr. — Rosie
Matt Roush: Since pointing out the non-renewal of Pure Genius—the season finale airs this Thursday—the reaction in my mailbag has been pretty furious, although once again I should caution that a cancellation may not be official until CBS announces next season’s lineup in May. (Not getting an order for additional episodes is usually a death blow, though.) Several fans have asked how to lobby CBS to its defense. The network address is 4024 Radford Ave., Studio City, CA, 91604. It may not help, but it couldn’t hurt.
As for the scheduling: CBS of all broadcast networks has so few problematic time periods that there weren’t too many options when Pure Genius failed to pop on Thursdays. And to be fair, the biggest performer on any network on Thursdays is on CBS, with The Big Bang Theory, so this is as good a night as any for the network to try something new. (Its time-period competitors The Blacklist and How to Get Away With Murder have their followers, but are on the decline and are seen as vulnerable.) If CBS had moved Pure Genius around the schedule, there would have been just as many complaints that the network was screwing with it and “trying to kill it.”
Spreading the Wealth at People’s Choice
Question: Finally! A TV awards show did it right. The People's Choice Awards placed the TV nominations into three distinct categories: network shows, cable programs and premium channel shows. They recognized the unfairness of pitting network shows hamstrung by FCC guidelines against cable shows which don't have to censor adult content. Hopefully the Emmys will follow suit. - Maurice
Matt Roush: Don’t count on it. The People’s Choice is all about spreading the wealth to give fans the maximum opportunity to express their love for all kinds of TV shows and stars. The Emmys, on the other hand, is not a popularity contest. By dividing shows up not just by comedy and drama and limited series, but by the distribution system, would be to diminish the importance of any individual award. In the best of all worlds, a show like This Is Us should be able to compete against Westworld and The Americans, instead of each existing in its own separate category. The fault really lies with an industry whose voters often fail to appreciate the best work being done on the more commercial platforms, a situation that has only amplified given the unprecedented amount of product that even professional critical have a tough time keeping up with. I understand that some of the People’s Choice winners (like the wonderful Outlander) weren’t televised on the actual broadcast (which I didn’t see), and with the Emmys, that would present another problem in terms of deciding what ends up on the show, which is already plenty long enough as is. It may not be an even playing field, but I don’t see the Emmys—or the Globes, or the SAG Awards, or the TCA Awards for that matter—bending the rules for this sort of distinction.
That’s all for now. Thanks as always for reading, and look for more questions and answers on Friday. I can’t do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below.